It has to be the most surprising in terms of a food for healthy teeth. But before you go diving into a kilo of rocky road, it has to be at least 70% cacao.
Even true chocoholics can’t manage overindulging in that; and the darker the chocolate the better. According to a study published in the journal Antioxidants & Redox Signaling, any chocolate of 70% cocoa bean or higher contains useful amounts of antioxidants, fibre, potassium, calcium, copper, and magnesium.
Cocoa flavanols are known to be of benefit to the circulatory system. According to research published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology scientists from Tufts University in Medford, MA, found that cocoa flavanols help blood vessel function and maintain arterial flexibility. Almost a decade ago the European Union Commission approved a health claim that 200 mg of cocoa flavanols help sustain cell wall elasticity, which contributes to healthy blood flow. This amount is equivalent to 2.5g of high-flavanol cocoa powder, or 10g of high-flavanol dark chocolate. The flavanols in the cocoa bean, and therefore dark chocolate, are part of the large group of compounds called flavonoids, which occur naturally in plant foods.
Dark chocolate is a superfood for the teeth due to a compound called CBH: a white crystalline powder that has a chemical makeup similar to caffeine. It helps harden tooth enamel, making it less susceptible to decay while also acting as a deterrent for bacteria that cause decay.
Not every kind of chocolate is good for you. Cocoa percentage is an indicator of taste and texture, and also be an indicator of quality. A low cocoa percentage indicates the chocolate contains more sugar than necessary to mask a flavour that doesn’t taste very chocolaty.
Theobromine, another compound in dark chocolate has been found to be more effective than fluoride at remineralising teeth. A University of Texas study tested theobromine, fluoride, and saliva were all tested to see the individual effect on tooth enamel. Enamel treated with theobromine showed a faster remineralisation rate than was achieved with fluoride.
Theobromine does this by making the teeth less vulnerable to bacterial acid erosion that can eventually lead to cavities.
While fluoride is effective at strengthening tooth enamel, it also poses many risks that chocolate does not. These include fluorosis – a cosmetic discolouration caused by overexposure to fluoride during the first eight years of life – and toxicity if toothpaste is swallowed.
To reap the benefits to teeth and blood of dark chocolate, always choose one with less than 6-8 grams of sugar per serving and with at least 70% cacao content. Work your way up to 80% or higher, and raw chocolate if possible – being less processed, more antioxidants are left intact.
85-110g of chocolate a day lowers your chance of getting cavities. Don’t brush right after you eat the chocolate – let it have some time with your teeth.
It’s the cocoa bean that houses the good stuff – not the chocolate itself.
Not a bad follow on from dark chocolate is cheese. It’s a tooth superfood because of its ability to combat acid erosion.
Each time you eat, teeth are exposed to decay-causing acid. Cheese after a meal counteracts that acid. Soft cheeses – such as brie, camembert, aged cheddars and blues – are all excellent options for your teeth and contain vitamin K2, which activates a protein that helps calcium bind to bone. It also contributes to skin health, promotes proper brain function and prevents heart-related diseases.
Peppering salads and stir-fries with raw onion also helps strengthen teeth. The humble onion eradicates damaging bacteria both in the mouth, and throughout the body generally, giving it its a bona fide super food status.
Celery is worth mentioning as a boon for overall mouth health. Texturally it essentially cleans teeth, and the vigorous chewing required also produces lots of bacteria-fighting saliva.
Salad greens pack a healthy punch always; and the high water content of fruits and vegetables helps to offset sugar content. Fresh carrots, celery, cucumber and apples are good to keep on hand and are referred to by some as ‘nature’s toothbrushes’.
Oranges are a surprise inclusion in the dental superfoods list, given their acidic nature. However, it’s the vitamin C that strengthens blood vessels and connective tissue, and slows down the progression of gum disease by reducing inflammation. Just remember to wait at least thirty minutes before brushing after eating citrus fruits because of the enamel softening that occurs.
Calcium is necessary in the protecting teeth and gums from disease. Vitamin D is needed for its absorption, which is what makes oily fish a fantastic food for maintaining healthy teeth. Salmon, trout, mackerel and sardines are the best sources of vitamin D and omega-3, both vital for optimum wellbeing.
Black tea and green tea both contain polyphenols, which interact with plaque-causing bacteria that cause plaque by neutralising them. Bacteria feed on the sugars in the mouth and excrete acids. This makes either of these teas a great choice for during or after eating.
Not exactly a food but necessary for life, is water. It’s included in this list of healthy essentials for good teeth. Saliva is 99.5% water and dehydration, which thickens saliva, wreaks havoc in the mouth. Water is crucial to the breakdown of food, the nullifying of bacterial acids, and rinsing away food debris in the prevention of tooth decay.
Even with all these superfoods, nothing replaces regular brushing, routine and proper flossing and six-monthly dental check-ups. Overall, the most powerful oral health mechanism is having a strong relationship with your dentist!
Note: All content and media on the Elevate Dental Richmond website and social media channels are created and published online for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice.